The video

A music video for ‘Day-In Day-Out’ was shot in downtown Los Angeles in early 1987. It was directed by David Bowie and Julien Temple.

We asked the police to work with us and they did very happily. We wanted to indicate how some of the houses for the homeless are removed, so we asked them to bring along the kind of contraption they use… it’s kind of like a tank with a big battering ram on the end of it. And on the end of the battering ram they’ve made a little joke. As it goes through the windows it goes ‘Have a nice day.’ And I pointed out that it would be in the video and they said they were only too pleased to keep it on, so they kept it on. Is that controversial? I don’t know.
David Bowie, 18 March 1988
Press conference, New York

The ‘Day-In Day-Out’ video featured around 200 extras, many of whom were living homeless in LA. The choreography was by the City Stage street theatre company.

The video was banned by several TV stations due to its gritty subject matter, even following the removal of an implied rape and a man urinating on Ronald Reagan’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star.

The edited version also substituted a scene in which a child’s building blocks spell out the words ‘Food’, and ‘Fuck’, replacing them with ‘Look’ and ‘Luck’. Despite the edits, the video was still banned by the BBC.

Pasted to the front of the Pacific Grand Hotel, located in one of the seediest areas of downtown Los Angeles, the roughly scrawled sign reads, “If You Don’t Live Here, Stay Out.” The hotel–whose rooms can be had for $25 a night, no questions asked–seems like an unlikely place to find David Bowie. But there he is in the lobby, amid a Dickensian crowd of derelicts, gliding by on a pair of roller skates, an electric guitar in hand, looking for all the world like a blackleather angel without wings.

Such is the location for Bowie’s newest video, ‘Day-In Day-Out’, which accompanies the release of his new EMI/America album, Never Let Me Down. Bowie calls ‘Day-In Day-Out’ his “indictment of an uncaring society.” In truth, it is about the homeless–and not just the homeless of L.A. “What happens here generally happens elsewhere,” remarks Bowie, skidding to a halt between takes. “It’s not that far from the situation in London or even Delhi. There are homeless everywhere.” Initially he had no more intention for the video to become so localized, but after he saw what was going on down here,” in East L.A., it was only a matter of time before he had crew and director together on 13 different locations.

Standing by in a pair of natty black-and-white striped trousers and a leather jacket is director Julien Temple (who also directed Bowie in Absolute Beginners and the video Jazzin’ for Blue Jean). He watches abstractly, no doubt praying his star won’t fall and break his leg. “You’ll have to do a bit better than that!” he jokes as Bowie executes a perfect turn. Bowie grins. He’s making it look easier than it is, but then he’s an old hand at mastering new arts of illusion.

Music & Sound Output, June 1987

Bowie was taught to rollerskate for the video by Tony Selznick, who also acted as the singer’s body double in some shots.

David came across as very humble and in between careers, almost. He was disillusioned with the music industry. I taught him to skate in a parking lot. We shot the video on Hollywood Boulevard at night, with me in a wig and leather jacket as his double for some scenes. The only bad fall involved the instructor: my wheels came off, I was bleeding everywhere, and David helped me clean up. He was so nice, normal. A couple of years later I was driving down Sunset and he pulled up alongside. I rolled down the window and he was really approachable, just like any other dad in a Lexus.
Tony Selznick
The Guardian, February 2013

Despite its controversies, the video for ‘Day-In Day-Out’ was nominated for Best Male Video in the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards, but lost out to Peter Gabriel’s groundbreaking ‘Sledgehammer’.

A video EP was released in 1987, containing the uncensored videos for ‘Day-In Day-Out’ and ‘Loving The Alien’, as well as a video for the Extended Dance Version of ‘Day-In Day-Out’.

The censored version, meanwhile, was included on the compilations The Video Collection and Best of Bowie.

Live performances

David Bowie performed ‘Day-In Day-Out’ throughout the Glass Spider Tour in 1987, but never again afterwards.

A performance from 30 August 1987 can be heard on the live album Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87).

Previous album: Tonight
Next song: ‘Time Will Crawl’
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